Friday 23 June 2017

Kyrandia - Snakes on a Tree

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

Brandon’s journal - entry #2 : Okay, I know have a perfectly useless amulet and Brynn seems to have disappeared somewhere! I certainly hope the other mystics will be able to help me. First I have to go see Darm and Brandywine, then I’ll try and get access to these darn caves…

We’ve left Brandon at the entrance of the Timbermist Woods. The first screen after the entrance leads to a big hut which seems to be the abode of Darm and his pet dragon Brandywine. Maybe they’ll be able to help me…

Worst roommate ever

There is something to be said here about the general lack of directions and context you suffer in Kyrandia. I meet characters that Brandon seem to have known for years. The mystics (Brynn and Darm), as well as other minor characters Herman and Merith have obviously known Brandon since he was a child and the game does a poor job of introducing these characters to you. It’s not that problematic when the characters are self-explanatory (Merith is a pain and Herman is the place’s loony) but when you meet what appears to be a forgetful wizard and his cat-eating pet dragon, you’d like to have a bit more of context and lore exposed to you. But no, it doesn’t seem we’ll get that. Darm (visibly forgetting who I am) and Brandywine (apparently knowing I’m on a quest to fight Malcolm while not moving its lazy ass to help me with some flying-fire-breathing action) simply ask me to get a quill somewhere.

Fetch Quest #7560

I’m then left to map the Timbermist Woods area, which seem like a much more crowded place than the first forest. The first screens I encounter are :
  • A statue of a wizard with an emerald stuck in it, which I’m guessing I’ll have to find a way to pry it out in order to add it to my gemstones collection. 
  • A crazy old man on a bench who tells me there is a songbird somewhere that’s hurt and needs help. 
  • A huge altar that makes me remember I’ll need the gemstones in order to make something happen here. I drop my three gemstones here in order to make room in my inventory. 
  • A beautiful ruby tree with a huge “danger” sign next to it, where I get my first death screen. Trying to pick one of the rubies has a snake bite you. You can still play while poisoned but I don’t think I’ll go very far, so I reload for now. 
Okay, fair enough…
  • An ancient well where I can put everything in my inventory, resulting in its loss. I try putting a few things in it to no avail and I reload afterwards. 
  • The nest of the aforementioned songbird, which is hurt indeed. Except throwing a gemstone at it, I don’t see what to do for now. 
  • A place with dead plants called Deadwood Glade 
  • A nice water spring 

Finally, once I go to the southeast of the map, I find a huge serpent head leading to a cave. Trying to enter it leads to my first confrontation with Malcolm! The jester is playing with knives and threatens me.

This screenshot looks like a 1-on-1 fighter game. Don’t worry, no stupid action scenes here…

Malcolm throws a knife at me which plants itself in the tree behind me. I have a few seconds to react and throw it back at him. He then leaves the place and erects a solid wall of ice that prevents me from accessing the cave. Pfiou.

On my travels, I found several new things, an acorn, a pinecone, an amethyst, a walnut and a tulip. I sense a “nut and flowers” category has been added to the “gemstones” category concerning the trash laying around that I’m randomly picking up.

I try doing several things to help the bird but none of my objects seem to be able to help him. In the Deadwood Glade, however, something attracts my attention. Trying to put a gem in the hole in the middle of the ground tells me “there are seeds in the hole”. Considering I don’t have any water or contenant on me (which would have made sense) I try putting my acorn into the hole… and it seems to do something. The ground starts shaking!

Botany 101 : the use of magic prevents the use of water for your garden.

I put the walnut and pinecone in the hole as well and a giant plant sprouts from the hole!

Reference contest : in what other game do we find pseudobushia hugifloras?

The plant thanks me for “restoring life in Deadwood Glade” (shouldn’t they find another name for it now?) and gives me a power for my amulet! Trying to use it makes Brandon tell that this could “become handy if I get hurt”. I guess that’s a healing spell! I see two puzzles I can solve using this power, which is always an exhilarating thing. I’ll first start by saving the birds! Well… as soon as I find how to make the healing power recharge, that’s it. I had a little moment of panic when I realized the power I tried wasn’t coming back… Maybe I needed to go see the flower every time I needed it? It turned out I didn’t need that but that the power took something like 2 to 3 real time minutes to reload. I guess it’s good to avoid “spamming” the powers every time I encounter a situation but I hope not too much trial and error will be involved or it’ll start to be boring. Anyway I proceed to help my friend the songbird… and he gives me a feather for my troubles. Yay!

Restoring glades and saving birds… maybe Kyrandia started as a prototype for Ecoquest 3?

I had not tried my new found power on the snake tree yet but I had now something more urgent to do. I went back to Darm’s house to deliver the “natural quill” to him. On my way I find a pearl laying around in a screen I already passed through which means that items are literally spawning from the nether when I’m not looking… mmmh not sure it bodes well if it means I have to run around in circles to make things appear…

I give the feather to Darm who uses it to write a magic scroll (without telling me what it does, of course). He tells me I now have to find my birthstones in order to get another tool for my quest. I have to put four stones on a plate (I’m guessing that means the plate on the altar) in the order of the seasons. Summer is the first. He remembers hiding the summer stone somewhere near.

You mystics sure do have a lot of errands to run, don’t you?

All of this seems pretty straightforward. Summer probably points to the ruby (or the garnet but I already have it in my inventory) so I’m now on my way to get a ruby from the ruby tree! I certainly hope the healing spell will be enough to get rid of the snake’s poison. Before trying this, however, I try the magic scroll. It seems to be some kind of freeze spell that just makes some snow appear on my shoulders. No idea where to use this (or why Darm gave me this in the first place). The scroll doesn’t disappear afterwards but I reload anyway just in case it has a limited number of uses. I’m not sure there are dead-ends in this game but considering it doesn’t stop me from putting all my stuff in a bottomless well, better safe than sorry...

I go back to the ruby tree, save beforehand and pick a ruby. The snake appears and bites me. Brandon takes a nice shade of green that foreseen my future death, but a click on the healing spell and I get rid of the poison. Score! Now I have a ruby!

Brandon smash!

I then proceed to the altar and drop all my gems on the ground around me. Without more guidance, it’s time to experiment on the gem puzzle. My first hope is quickly shot down, because neither the ruby nor the garnet (the two red gems) are burnt by the plate. I then put every other gem I have on me on the plate and they all disappear one after another. I end up with nothing…

You said it, buddy…

Okay, so where to now? I have an idea to get the emerald that’s stuck into the statue on the town square, but I need to reload before the Malcolm encounter. I try not to throw his knife back at him (hoping it would allow me to keep it) but he just kills me in this case. That was worth a shot. I now go back to the second best idea I have : randomly walking around to find new gemstones… I find a diamond, an aquamarine and another peridot… which only help me to learn the names of gemstones in English because they all are burnt down by the plate… I try and recall the only hint I had for the puzzle which is Darm telling me he has hidden the summer gemstone “somewhere near”. Maybe I missed something around his house? I start combing all the areas randomly clicking on everything, pixel-hunting thoroughly but to no avail… I even come back all the way to Brynn’s temple and get an opal and a topaz for my troubles.

Kyrandia gem trade show 1992

Needless to say these two gems didn’t work either… I desperately try again and put everything on the plate. Once I’m out of gemstones I try putting the apple and the tulip on it… ok that’s a bit desperate, but you never know. I stumble upon the solution purely by accident. You have to click exactly on one spot of the spring to fish a Sunstone! To be honest I don’t even remember clicking on the spring voluntarily...

There, exactly

Okay, now, game, we have a problem. There is absolutely no hint to the fact there might be something hidden in the spring (or is there? Tell me if I’m wrong). If you click to any other spot of the spring Brandon just comments on the fact that it’s pretty, giving you no clue whatsoever. I certainly hope one of you readers will tell me I missed a very obvious hint about all this because if not, it’s crappy game design all other again. I have flashbacks of the jacket in Dark Seed coming back to me!

The best thing about this would be if the Sunstone didn’t work either but, thankfully, it does. The rest is a simple trial-and-error matter. I save, put every stone I know in the plate waiting for one to be accepted, then reload not to lose every gem that’s disappeared (even if I’m pretty sure the random appearance of gems all around the world probably means I can find them again if needed) and try again. The results are : Sunstone, Garnet, Topaz and Ruby. The seasons? What? Okay, so if Sunstone symbolizes summer, how come autumn is symbolized by a darker shade of red, then winter a nice yellow and spring a bright red? Where does the guy who made up this riddle live? Mars?

Stupid puzzle…

I’m sorry for Kyrandia lovers out there (which I completely am, don’t think otherwise) but this puzzle is complete crap! The first major puzzle of the game is as multi-layered as they come, which is always a good thing in my book. However, two of these parts are completely busted. The hidden sunstone is too difficult to find (but serves as a warning that I need to be thorough in my clicking for the rest of the game) and considering new gemstones appear randomly, you have no way of thinking you’re supposed to do anything else than just randomly walking around the game world until you stumble upon something new. There is also the fact that an emerald is obviously hidden in plain sight but is not part of the solution (we’ll see later if it has any use at all).

The second problem is the fact that the hint “one stone per season” is completely useless (except if someone knows of a way Sunstone, Garnet, Topaz and Ruby are linked to the seasons?) and the whole thing relies on trial and error… Meh... Anyway! What I get for my trouble is… a pan flute! Yay! I know magic items don’t always look impressive but I can’t help but feeling it’s a bit anticlimactic there…

My thoughts exactly

Playing the flute doesn’t do anything but considering the notes seem high and Brandon insists on this fact, I’m guessing it’ll be able to break the ice wall, Castafiore-style. I go to the entrance of the cave, use the flute… and tadaaa! The way is opened!

Have you considered any other career than musician? Video game protagonist perhaps?

I enter the dreaded Fireberries cave. The game is neatly divided into chapters and covering the looong maze in front of me would make this post way too long, so I’ll just leave you here for now and go prepare my graph paper for next week’s ordeal. Hopefully I’ll find a use for my apple and my tulip in these caves? Should I have taken more random gemstones with me? You never know when an aquamarine might come in handy… We’ll see, I guess. See you next week!

New beautiful environment and music… better get used to it though!

Session time : 1 hour 30
Total time : 2 hours 30

Inventory : Apple, flute, magic scroll, tulip
Powers : Healing

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. >Reference contest : in what other game do we find pseudobushia hugifloras?

    Google tells me Ynaqf bs Yber.

    Good luck with the maze, it's probably one of the worst in adventure game history (still not as bad as the air duct in Pandora Directive though).

    1. Google killed my question... and thanks for the maze, I'll be sure to gear up with drinks and donuts!

    2. I suggest if anyone can get the reference without a search engine, they should also get points.

      My current policy on adventure game mazes is to always get a map from the internet as soon as I notice I'm in one.

      Of course, I can't do that if I'm doing the game for the Adventure Gamer (I still hate you for your desert section, King's Quest V)

      I originally was also going to mention the 'logic' behind the stone solution, but Alex got there first. I remember being mighty pissed off with that puzzle as I'd tried to work it out logically

    3. Yeah, you know, this was my 2nd graphic adventure game (first being Loom). I can recite the maze by memory, because I won the game so many times in my youth.

      After all these years, I never thought about how crappy was this puzzle and how the stones have no obvious relation with the seasons (they could have used colors, maybe something related to stone names in a sort of a poem), I don't know, make the puzzle more challenging and interesting instead of randomly trying all of your shitty inventory.

      Also something I can see now, is how this game in my mind is huge because of hundreds of screens. But in reality each unique screen holds 1 puzzle, and that's it. They could never just find a better use of the environment they had.

      Some trivia: Frank Klepacki, the music guy was 18 years old when he composed this game OST (which I love and have it, ripped by myself).

      Still, there is one thing I hate more than random non sensical puzzles, and that's unwinnable situations.

    4. Yeah, the stone puzzle perfectly exemplifies why I don't really like Kyrandia games - too much of the puzzles involve picking up randomly appearing stuff around the countryside and putting it all into some magical thingie, without any rhyme or reason as to why the magical thingie requires specifically this stuff. Because of these puzzles and the fact that the items are usually not unique, but seem to be spontaneously generated and regenerated, you end up just walking around the countryside, picking up quantities of jewels, fruits and whatever garbage you might require and piling it all to convenient places for possible future use. I think the third game is the worst in this sense.

    5. It really is a terrible game. Very pretty, but so badly designed. The only saving grace is that I don't think there are any dead ends/dead man walking scenarios.

    6. Ab, gurer ner qrnq raqf. Lbh pna neevir gb gur pnfgyr vfynaq jvgubhg fbzr arprffnel vgrzf/novyvgvrf (n sybjre, gur tngr xrl, gur nagv-zntvp fcryy, gur punyvpr). Shegurezber, lbh pna qrfgebl fbzr vgrzf orsber gurve cebcre hfr.

  2. Regarding the stones puzzle, the first stone is always the orange one hidden in the spring (you are right, the only hint is that Darm hid it somewhere near). Second and third are 100% random, and last one is always the ruby.

    The random ones keep spawning, so you could try all of them, or throw them in the well, or whatever, but the game won't deadlock (for that puzzle in particular at least)

  3. I got to this puzzle after playing along, and couldn't remember how I figured it out before. Of course after a bit of trial-and-error it turns out it's purely trial-and-error. How disappointing.

    Took me a while to get through the caves, but at least the puzzles are more sensible I guess. After the caves... well, we'll talk about that later!

    1. When playing this for the first time, I literally couldn't believe it was random. Who thinks that makes for a puzzle?

  4. I actually really liked the cave section (and I didn't like the gemstone puzzle either) because I like mapping. A suggestion and minor spoiler about my experience in the maze: Sbe zbfg bs gur znmr, gur sveroreel ohfurf ner cynprq fhpu gung vg'f cbffvoyr gb trg sebz bar gb gur arkg jvgubhg ehaavat bhg bs yvtug. Ubjrire, va bar cynpr, lbh unir gb znxr n fbeg bs yrnc bs snvgu jurer lbh zbir vagb gur haxabja nf gur yvtug ehaf bhg va beqre gb svaq gur arkg ohfu. V guvax V unq gb erybnq bapr ng gung cbvag, ohg gurer jrera'g gbb znal cbffvovyvgvrf, fb vg jnf cerggl rnfl gb pnershyyl znc gur jubyr guvat naq svaq zl jnl bhg.

  5. I'd expect the gemstones to fit birth minth associations:

    Whether they really do, I'm not clear (Sunstone is not in the list, the order of the seasons for the rest is backwards)

    1. When I played I was thinking the same thing and looked up birthstones online as well. As I said I was disappointed when I looked up the answer and found it was deliberately random.

      And that's at least the second time I've whinged about this puzzle so I'm going to have to stop before I become the old guy who's always complaining about winter lasting too long nowadays.

  6. Years late here, but there is a hint given about the sun stone being hidden in the spring. Looking at the water before Darm gives you the birthstone mission will cause Brandon to say "there's a pretty stone down there", but he won't pick it up.

    Not amazing, but it's there. The order of the rest of the birthstone in the altar is random with each playthrough. Definitely could have been a better puzzle.